Suzanne asked a few friends for recommendations to occupy her mind while she’s home with a newborn. Today, blogger (and mom of two) Hillary Copsey shares her recommendations for what to read.
Reading is, in many ways, the perfect thing to do when you have a new baby to tend.
It’s quiet. It transports you from the tedium of diaper changes and the pleasant yet prickly trap of a nursing or sleeping baby. It can be done in fits and spurts, in any place and at any time – even in the dark of night, thanks to phones and tablets.
And reading aloud endlessly will quiet the screaming of a colicky child – at least for a bit. (May you never discover this for yourself.)
When Suzanne asked me to compile a maternity leave reading list, I dove into the search for recommendations with two big assumptions, based on hazy memories of my own reading habits after my sons were born. I read less when my boys, now 6 and 8, were wee, and the reading I did was short and light.
Both assumptions are false.
I’ve kept track of every book read, by month, for nine years, and because my boys’ birthdates are just two weeks apart, my maternity leaves fell in the same three-month period. Even as a first-time mom with a colicky newborn, my book count during that three-month period remained at the nine-year average. When my second son was born, I read two books above it.
I’m an omnivorous reader, and my maternity leave reading history reflects that, too. Just as in the years when I wasn’t rocking a newborn in the wee hours, my book lists from early 2008 and 2010 are a mix of genre and literary fiction, nonfiction, short stories, young adult, long-form journalism and favorite rereads.
All of this geekery to point out this essential fact: If reading is a vital part of your identity, a baby won’t change that. You will find time for it – and, if you have one, you should ask your partner to help you make the time. Reading was the thing I did to remain who I always was even as I became something new, a mother.
I have a list of recommendations, but here’s my best advice: Read what you enjoy.
Avoid parenting books. Skip the books you “should” read. Instead, turn to comfort reads, whatever that means to you. Take this time to wallow in what you love – baby and books.
Favorites from My Maternity Leaves
The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly – great particularly for boy moms
The Dexter books, Jeff Lindsay – quick, dark humor
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
The Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games author
The Good Soldiers, David Finkel – longform journalism
White Teeth and On Beauty, Zadie Smith – So, here’s the peril of maternity leave reading: These two very good books blur together, read as they were in fits and starts while my youngest son was tiny.
I always say I don’t love short stories, but my book lists shows that to be false. These collections are great, delivering smart, often funny or poignant social commentary in manageable page counts.
Tenth of December, George Saunders
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu
Drown, Junot Diaz
Where The God of Love Hangs Out, Amy Bloom
Vampires in The Lemon Grove, Karen Russell
This is a collection of books I still think about after reading in big, greedy gulps.
Lucky Us, Amy Bloom
The Royal We, Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson
Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple
The Flavia de Luce mysteries, Alan Bradley
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Mudbound, Hillary Jordan
Horns, Joe Hill
How to Tell Toledo from The Night Sky, Lydia Netzer
Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff
Summerland, Michael Chabon
The Likeness, Tana French
Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta
Speak, Louisa Hall
These are the books I return to again and again. Even if you’re not usually a re-reader, you might find it comforting when your hormones are raging and you’re covered in bodily fluids.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Anne series, L.M. Montgomery – Go for the later books. I’m telling you, Anne Shirley Blythe is a feminist role model.
Grimm’s Fairytales – I particularly like this version, Fairy Tales from The Brothers Grimm, by Philip Pullman
Song of the Lioness series, Tamora Pierce
Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
This list was compiled with the same criteria as the fiction list.
The Boys in The Boat, Daniel James Brown
Data-ism, Steve Lohr – Read this with Speak from the fiction list.
The 50-Year Silence, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward
Between The World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
We all have our corners of the internet that suck us in for hours, so I’ve kept this brief.
“The Midnight Zone,” Lauren Groff – my favorite line: “I taught them how to read, but they could make their own lunches.”
NextDraft – This daily newsletter from Dave Pell will keep you up-to-date with everything happening outside your house.
Tom and Lorenzo – Follow the celebrity fashion machine with witty commentary and lots of pictures of pretty dresses and pretty people.
Twitter is great for night-time feedings: Someone is always up, and you can pick and choose what you read further. Authors like G. Willow Wilson and Rainbow Rowell are great on Twitter. Following all your favorite news sources is never a bad idea. I also recommend @XplodingUnicorn for funny observations about parenthood.
Medium – The daily digest is a fairly decent round-up of interesting reads and/or the reads people are talking about.
After 10 years in Florida, Ohio native Hillary Copsey returned to the Buckeye State, where she works for a nonprofit arts agency, blogs at Not Raising Brats, and reads copiously. Find her on Twitter @HillaryCopsey. She and Suzanne would both like to #MakeAmericaReadAgain.